« PreviousContinue »
and toil, and disappointment, and bitter anxieties are we subject! But on the seventh blessed day, our work is such as sooths our sorrows, and diffuses a holy tranquillity through the mind. In the proper occupations of that day, we meet with nothing to harass and vex the mind. The prospect before us is bright and serene -even an eternal day without a cloud! The objects of our contemplation on that day are truth, holiness, benevolence, justice, mercy. At the end of this waste and howling wilderness, through which we now travel with weary steps, we behold the brightness of a region of unruffled tranquillity and glory. We behold, and the fair prospect tranquillizes our minds: we turn from scenes of vanity and vexation. In this house, the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
During the six days, we are engaged in occupations which necessarily present scenes of temptation and defilement. We are connected with sinful men. We see them selfish and unjust, and we are tempted to be selfish and unjust ourselves. But on the blessed day of rest we converse not with man, but with God; with Him who is purity and holiness. His fair and spotless image is before our eyes: we contemplate his glorious attributes; we throw ourselves upon his mercy; we embrace his holy covenant; we perceive the beauty of holiness; we call upon our God for grace and assistance; and thus our hearts are strengthened against the attacks of temptation, and our souls purified by our occupations.
During the six days, though we feel and lament the disease of our corrupt nature, there is nothing in our regular employments to remedy it. But the seventh day is truly the day of healing, and the day of restoration. On that day we hear the glad tidings of a Saviour's work, and meet him in his own house, and at his own table. The good Physician there administers his precious remedies to our souls. Blessed day! dearer than light to our eyes, dearer than life to our souls, should be thy auspicious dawn; for thou art
the Lord's Day. Thou dost introduce us to the presence and worship of our Redeemer. By thee we are shewn the benefit of his death and resurrection, the value of his intercession, and the extent of his love. Thou art the resemblance and foretaste of that eternal Sabbath above, where the Redeemer reigns with his glorified servants in eternal bliss.
IV. There is still another light in which the Sabbath remains to be considered-as a sign between God and man. Thus it is stated by the Almighty himself: “I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and man."
It is a sign on the part of God;-a most plain and illustrious sign of his willingness to receive and to bless mankind. The devils, who have irrecoverably lost the favour of God, have no such sign held out to them of his readiness to save them. The appointment of the Sabbath is, as it were, God's pitching his tabernacle among men a sign that he will accept our worship, that the Throne of Grace is prepared for our prayers, and that the way to heaven stands open to all.
But it is a sign also on the part of man;-a sign that is, of his obedience to God. In this respect it operates as a test whether man will be obedient to God, or not. For so connected is the due observance of the Sabbath with every part of religious worship and practice, that it may be justly considered as the representative of the whole. And this is particularly the case with respect to nations. It is not easy to ascertain what sins are committed in private, and in families; but the Sabbath is the day when the whole nation openly makes profession of its faith, and gives a proof of its obedience to God. Now it is true that the sign may subsist without the thing signified: but if the sign is gone, if the form is abandoned, it is a very plain inference that the spirit must be gone also; that the nation has, as it were, shut the door of God's house, refusing to enter therein.
This view of the Sabbath, as a sign of our obedience to God, casts a high degree of importance upon the due observance of it. Indeed, it is the most melancholy spectacle which can be exhibited to a Christian mind, to see a man wilfully renounce the religious observance of the Sabbath. It is, in effect, the renunciation of his allegiance to God. It is, as it were, a public declaration, that he will not seek the mercy and grace of God; that he will not spare any part of his time, or sacrifice any portion of his pursuits and pleasures, in order to please God and to fulfil his will. With what awful propriety will it be said to such a person at the last day; "My Sabbath was a sign to thee of my readiness to bless and save thee; and thy continued disregard of it was a sign of thy contempt of me, and of my salvation!"
Permit me now to address this subject to your attentive consideration.
I call upon you all, my brethren, seriously to meditate on this great and important duty. Remember, the Sabbath is a sign on your part, and on God's. If the Sabbath is dishonoured and profaned, all the bulwarks of religion will be broken down; and infidelity and immorality will come in like a flood, and deluge the land to its utter destruction. If you have any regard to the welfare of the rising generation of your children-if you would wish them to be blessed in the favour of God-inculcate upon them a reverence for the Sabbath, and in your own persons set them an example of it. If you have any regard to the honour of God-any just fear of the awful day of judgment, when you must give an account to him of what you have done in the body-honour the Sabbath, and observe it as a day set apart for the glory of God and the good of your soul. It is a duty incumbent on man, in all orders and ranks of society.
You that are masters of families must set the example to your dependents: you must shew them that you spend not the day in idleness, or in secular concerns,
or in unprofitable visiting and feasting, but as a day in which you seek to honour and serve God. An awful responsibility lies upon you for the souls of your children and domestics: let them not be able to charge you with having set them a bad example, with having employed them unnecessarily in temporal affairs, with having prevented their worshipping God. Be clear of the blood of all men: be able to say before God, with respect to all that have been dependent on you, "I call them to witness that I was willing to suffer any inconvenience that they might have the opportunity of worshipping God." But you must go farther. You must press upon them their duty; you must instruct them in it; you must remonstrate with them if they neglect it; in a word you must labour to impress them with a conviction that there can be no hope of the blessing of God but in the conscientious observance of the Sabbath. You must also be ready to make sacrifices for this purpose. You must be willing to renounce a part of your gains, should it be necessary, rather than violate your conscience, and transgress the commandment of God, by breaking the Sabbath. It is a test whether you prefer spiritual blessings to temporal advantage; whether you value your souls more than your bodies, or would please God rather than man. In a word, let us all bear in mind, that in a very few years at the most, we shall lie upon a death-bed, and then the guilt of neglected Sabbaths will press as a heavy burden upon our souls. But may God grant that God grant that we so improve the Sabbaths below, that they may prepare us for an eternal Sabbath above!
ON SOUNDNESS OF MIND IN RELIGION.
2. Timothy vii. 1.
For God hath given us the spirit.... of a sound mind.
THE expression, sobriety or soundness of mind, is used in the Scriptures in various senses. Sometimes it is opposed to madness; as where the demoniac was found sitting at the feet of Jesus; clothed and in his right mind. Madness disposes men to act irregularly, furiously, and extravagantly. Soundness of mind, therefore, implies recollection, calmness, and discretion; the guidance and controul of reason; a disposition to examine coolly, to weigh impartially, and to determine according to the sober dictates of reflection, rather than by caprice or passion. In other places, soundness of mind is opposed to levity and impropriety, as where women are required to adorn themselves in modest apparel, with sobriety; or to intemperance and sensuality, as where young men are exhorted to be sober minded, and, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live so